January 17th: El Mariachi


Release Date: 1992
Director: Robert Rodriguez
Why I picked this: The story behind the production of this movie

Made with a budget of only a mere $7,000, Robert Rodriguez’s first film is a wonder. The actors doubled as the crew, a wheelchair was used as a dolly, condoms with fake blood were used as squibs, desk lamps were used for lighting. The movie’s low budget is evident, and produces an off-kilter and cheesy feeling at many times, with its use of zooms, fast motion, and sometimes bizarre camera angles. But this movie is far from bad. It’s very good in fact, and not in a “so good it’s bad” kind of way. Rodriguez is very clever working around the limitations of a low budget, and there was careful thought into crafting this film. Again, movies are at their best when the visuals tell all, and “El Mariachi” is a great example. There are some scenes that are just great to watch, even scenes as simple as someone walking past a turtle. The editing is what makes this movie; actions and chase and dream sequences have very precise editing. It is coherent, but more than passable; it is masterful at times. The editing and filming style together make for a very fast pace. The story itself is entertaining in its own right. The titular and unnamed mariachi is mistaken for an escaped criminal, and a drug lord seeking to kill this criminal sends hitmen who mistake the mariachi for the criminal. My Spanish is rusty, but I had a very good grasp at what was happening. I can’t saw, however, that I liked the ending. Not only was it abrupt, but it was unsatisfying, but after some thought, I can see the reasoning behind the tone of the ending. Rodriguez’s work is something that would inspire any aspiring filmmaker, and like other great debuts like Tarantino’s “Reservoir Dogs,” it was the beginning of a great movie career.

The movie’s use of cinematic language with the contraints of its absurdly low budget is something to be prasied, and overall, it’s good, cheesy fun.


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